Coming back to China means once again coming to grips with the filth of humanity.
Not filth like the construction dust, the traffic, the air quality, the out of control population, the rotting food, the abuse of animals, the corruption, the deceit.
I was riding the subway, one of my first adventures out from my new workplace, Kede. I sat against a seat, while shoes of all shapes, sizes, and outrageous decorations would walk in and out of my view. On the subway you try not to make eye contact, try not to move, try not to exist. Public spaces are where you practice becoming invisible, so you and everyone else can continue on their merry way without added distractions.
As the train closed its doors to another countless stop, a peculiar sound resonated within the carriage. A string instrument of unknown origin was whining its melody. I knew instantly it was a makeshift instrument used by elders of low socio economic status, because I had seen these in my previous city, Shijiazhuang. Normally, a couple walk together, one blind, one seeing. The blind is selling her/his sense of sound to those who are willing to pay for the aural interruption. In Shijiazhuang you had the option of crossing the street, or at least taking a wide berth, to prevent yourself from feeling more guilty.
Not on a subway.
Their feet shuffled so close to mine. A moccasin styled shoe, the sole frayed from endless shuffling, entered my vision. It barely left the ground, searching for a free space ahead to lay itself down before the other would surpass it and surge like a broken wave towards the next carriage. A weary old hand trailed the last of them, hand (and heart) empty of change.
I didn’t look up to them.
The train moved on.
The train closed its doors again. Somebody started singing. Small feet arched onto their toes entered my vision first.
I looked up to them.
A girl, barely out of primary school, is being lead out in front by her (presumed) grand mother. The girl’s back is arched beyond repair, her soulless eyes glazed towards an unspectacular roof. Her support is her grand mother behind, pushing the girl with one half of her body, the other holding a beaten up tin can. Their mechanical shuffle is out of time to their music.
I looked back down.
The girl’s socks are mismatched.
Their feet shuffle away.
The can remained empty.
I am a 22 year old white female.
I wear Doc Martens and diamonds.
I use Apple and Samsung.
I abuse alcohol and the English language.
I am well read.
I am well fed.
I am well in bed (jokes, but the rhyme was too good to pass).
But I am the filth of humanity.
For I always look back down.